HERMISTON — Presentation is everything, from the grooming of the horse to the length of the rider’s pants. The smallest detail could mean the difference between a world championship and a long ride home.
Hermiston’s Dallas Bolen was on point at the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show from Oct. 10-17 at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, bringing home three championship ribbons.
“It was so exciting,” said Bolen, a 1999 Hermiston graduate. “I’ve been going for about 25 years. I’ve won qualifying rounds before, but this is the first time I have won a championship.”
While Bolen, 39, owns her own Morgan horses, the two horses she rode and drove to victory in Oklahoma belong to Louis and Liz Goldmann of Benton City, Washington.
“Liz is a longtime client of mine,” Bolen said. “She is 74, so she doesn’t ride anymore.”
Goldmann still likes to drive the carriages. She owns the two that were used at nationals, and drove in qualifying rounds of the National Champion Double Jeopardy Carriage Obstacle, but Bolen drove in the finals.
Pulling the carriage was 13-year-old bay gelding Sutton Remembrance GCH.
“We have been trying to win this since he was 6 years old,” Bolen said. “Sometimes, it’s the year or the judge. This is the highest ribbon you can win. It’s the creme de la creme for him.”
Remembrance also pulled the carriage for Bolen when she won the Morgan World Champion Carriage Driving.
“There is a lot of tradition,” Bolen said. “Depending on the carriage, certain items are required, and there are requirements of what you have to wear. The devil is in the details. You are judged on equitation and how well the horse performs. It was all horse. He was awesome.”
In the Carriage Driving, Bolen had a seat on the back of her carriage, which required a passenger. Bolen’s was groom Sibbea Browning of Hermiston.
In the Morgan World Champion Dressage Training Level Open, Bolen rode 4-year-old chestnut gelding Sutton Terra Cotta to victory.
“We rode in a couple of small shows when he was a 3-year-old,” Bolen said. “He hadn’t shown in a year and a half. He was super happy to do something.”
Terra Cotta won two of three qualifying rounds, and tied for first in the third.
“Liz bred both horses, so this is even more special for her,” Bolen said.
Because of the COVID pandemic, Bolen said the numbers at nationals were down about 10%. Competitors from Canada were unable to make the trip, as were some European riders. There still were more than 1,000 entrants at the event.
While nationals presents championship ribbons, there are no monetary awards.
“You can’t put a price on memories,” Bolen said.
The appeal of Morgan horses
Known for their versatility, Morgans are one of the first breeds to be developed in the United States.
According to history, every Morgan today can trace its lineage back to a horse named Figure, a hardy stallion who was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1789.
Morgans are family horses, show horses, and once were used to work in the fields.
As show horses, they are used in several different disciplines, from jumping to dressage to endurance riding. They also make good rodeo partners in barrel racing, tie-down roping and team roping.
Bolen trains Goldmann’s five Morgans, and has several of her own, including a 4-month-old she recently bought.
”I’ve been competing since I was about 9 years old,” Bolen said. “It’s in your blood. My mom thought I’d grow out of it. I never did. She’s still waiting.”
Training horses is a side job for Bolen, who works at Wheatland Insurance in Pendleton.
”I train for Liz, but I also have other clients,” Bolen said. “I have a super supportive husband (Kai). He came down to nationals and helped us set up, then flew back home to go to work. When it was over, he flew down, helped us pack up and drove home with us.”